25 Years of Blue Line Magazine
By Mark Reesor
By Mark Reesor
5159 words – MR
Canadians are either “incredibly creative people with an innate need to decorate vehicles” – or realize police cruisers must be highly visible while enhancing sense of community, Dave Brown writes in announcing the 2009 best dressed police car winners.
Managing in recessionary times is nothing new. Robert Lunney faced the problem as Edmonton’s police chief when the National Energy Program ended the oil boom. Alberta was initially unaffected and his decision to hire a new recruit class “cost service members money and could have cost me my job.”
There are benefits to hard times, argues
The first in a seven part series on the 100th anniversary of the OPP looked at the history of a force that began with remote single officer detachments and no phones, cars or radios.
One of the first female RNC recruits makes history by becoming the force’s first female superintendent. June Layden has held every possible rank in the street patrol division and told East Coast Correspondent Danette Dooley she looked forward to advocating on behalf of members.
It’s easy to mistake people with Parkinson’s Disease as being drunk or high on drugs. Judy Hazlett and husband Roger Buxton suggest using the acronym STOP – Slowness of movement, Tremor, OK intellectually and Posture (typically stooped and bent forward at the waist) – to help officers tell the difference.
Police officers need to seek help to recover from the scars left by critical incidents such as police shootings. “Failing to do so may result in the loss of another life,” warns Michael Soden – “that of the officer involved.”
Becoming a quadriplegic in a 2001 diving accident didn’t diminish Bryce Clarke’s desire to work. The Edmonton Police Service constable overcame the obstacles and gradually resumed his career over a two year period, becoming one of only a few quadriplegic police officers in North America. “Don’t let your disability get you down,” he urges. “Don’t let it limit your capabilities. People should see that even with a disability, everyone can do what they want.”
Two other quadriplegic officers, OPP Cst. Steve Jones and Brantford Police Service Cst. Cy Villa, told about their struggles to resume their chosen careers and still have a hand in catching “bad guys!”
No one laughs at people with cancer so why do they make fun of the mentally ill?, asks
“Agencies should examine their policies to ensure officers are not abandoned and forced to make an uneducated decision about how, where or which force options or equipment they should carry,” advises “smaller officer” Brad Fawcett. “Trainers have a responsibility” to provide officers with options.
The Calgary Police Service lost the downtown core to increasing gang violence, street disturbances and rising crime. To take it back, chief Rick Hanson envisioned a 62 member permanent downtown beat unit which hit the streets in May, 2009. “We are making a statement that the city is ours – we own it and we own the street.”
Canada’s newest police agency, The South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service, has begun protecting the 900,000 people who daily ride Vancouver’s buses, rail and marine services. Its motto – “Safely linking communities” – speaks to its mission of promoting public transport.
The OPP launches its second Unmanned Aerial Vehicle into service. The Saskatoon produced, six rotor Dragonflyer X6 is an excellent camera platform, writes OPP Cst. Marc Sharpe, who put together a “ground school” to professionally train UAV operators.
To say Edmonton Police Service computer whiz Elena Sinelnikova is light on her feet would be an understatement. Despite not taking up dancing until she was 20, the mother of two young boys and dance partner Jim Deglau beat out 20 other couples to win the Canadian Dance Championship, Latin category.
Aboriginal peoples’ difficult transition into mainstream society is ongoing, writes retired RCMP inspector Ian Parsons. Complex socio-economic problems are likely to remain for some time. Police awareness and empathy for the difficult and disastrous path Aboriginals have trod “will not diminish the problems faced on a daily basis (but) the additional effort sends a message to the community.”
“Institutional inertia is not a good enough reason to maintain a prohibition on marijuana or any other drug,” argues Victoria police officer David Bratzer. “Regulating cannabis would provide a safer alternative to alcohol, eliminate most domestic drug trafficking, generate tax revenue, free up police resources and reduce abuse by young people.”
At precisely 7:01 am on Oct. 19, the 63 officers of the Oxford Community Police Service joined the Woodstock Police Service. Signs were placed by the phones to remind staff of the new name. Chief Rod Freeman ushered in the new force, which wasn’t really new. Founded in the 1800s, it was replaced by Oxford in 1998.
Police officers appear to be at much greater risk for homicide-suicide than the general population, writes psychologist Dr. Antoon A. Leenaars. Relationship problems appear to be highly implicated, alcohol use is a precursor and PTSD and depression are frequently noted. “There are no simple answers and therefore no simple solutions… The first step is to no longer keep this problem a secret.”
Trying to choose Canada’s best dressed police car 20 years ago would be like trying to find the shiniest vehicle at a Kandahar car show, writes Dave Brown. Now, with the graphics talent of Canada’s law enforcement agencies, selecting the finalists is more like picking winners of a LA beauty pageant; there really are no losers.
Brown also wrote about the Michigan State Police vehicle trials, observing that today’s police cars are faster, better built and more capable of handling real life conditions. Breaking news – Carbon Motors will soon offer a new, purpose-built, diesel powered police vehicle, with delivery promised for 2012.
Many people, including some police, feel investigating graffiti is a waste of time because “it’s just kids messing around,” writes Saskatoon police Cst. Lee Jones. “The bottom line is investing time and resources in investigating graffiti crime will pay dividends in the end because you decrease other, previously undetected criminal offences that the writers are committing. You also increase the opportunity for early intervention and access to councillors and psychologists to treat undiagnosed clinical personality disorders.”
“Tactical should not be just marketing labels lining the aisles of sporting goods stores,” writes Dave Brown in his electronic earmuffs test. “Tactical means combat-ready gear made to higher standards, for use when equipment failure can lead to mission failure. Tactical means ensuring users make it home alive at the end of every shift or tour. Tactical means it just has to work.”
A small part of the public will always think the worst of police, writes Allan Joyner, and there’s nothing you can do to sway their opinion. “However, the vast majority will respond favourably to effective communications from the people they most trust to keep them safe and secure.”
The Integrated Security Unit policing the Vancouver Olympics had some 10,000 police and military members from across Canada and almost a billion dollar budget. The task was enormous, writes Elvin Klassen. Imagine the Super Bowl in your city and you must keep everyone safe. “Then imagine the equivalent of three Super Bowls every day and you get an idea of the crowds in downtown Vancouver.”
The time to formally embrace tiered policing in Canada is now, writes Robert Lunney. “The single tier system is challenged by complexity, increasing demands for higher levels of performance and new rules for accountability.” Alberta’s Community Peace Officers are a good example – “an advanced approach… resting on a solid platform of past experience with county and municipal enforcement services.”
“The problems facing RCMP management are challenging and it’s not easy to change old war horses,” writes
Training “on the cheap” doesn’t have to mean poor results, Tom Wetzel points out. “In fact, the benefits may actually be better because the training will have an agency flavor that addresses local realities and culture.” Videos of pursuits used in role playing exercises, for example, can teach emergency driving.
A “killer course” at the University of Western Ontario gives students new appreciation for police. Developed and taught by veteran London Police Det/Cst. Mike Arntfield, it has students digging for clues in real life unsolved murders. With the benefit of hindsight, they excavate new leads using modern technology, even passing the best theories on to police for consideration.
Many police agencies hesitate to adopt patrol tactics and weapons that emulate the military, writes Michael Soden, “but we don’t use revolvers, wooden billy clubs or call boxes anymore; we evolved and it is the same concept with the active shooter. We did not choose this. but we have to deal with it and give officers the best equipment and training possible, because ultimately society pays a high price for our lack of training.”
Social media is changing the police landscape, writes Mark Giles. On-line comments may not feel public but they are. Social-media is transitioning. “Those that proceed with caution – with a clear strategy for engagement, and a commitment to regularly assess and monitor their on-line presence and initiatives – are far more likely to maximize the many benefits while avoiding the pitfalls.”
Vancouver’s new Tactical Training Centre offers firearms training without the toxins. The new 4,800 square metre facility has 25 and 50 metre ranges, a high flow fan system and allows only the use of non-toxic, copper-based ammunition.
Society tends to lump together people with mental illness and criminals, writes Dorothy Cotton. “I suspect there are as many people with mental illnesses in Kingston Pen today as there were back in the mid 1800s. In many cases, they are there for the same reasons as in 1840 – because there is no other ‘place’ for them.” Her answer – “services and supports – medical, psychological, social and spiritual.”
Police rush to emergencies, driving, controlling the lights and siren, listening to or talking on the radio, reading call related text and/or viewing a map on the in-car computer, writes Tom Rataj. These distractions need to be addressed because the danger “doesn’t somehow diminish through some magical “professional” skill.”
“There is nothing we didn’t try to do to help people. Wherever we were needed, that’s where we went,” says Sgt. Boyd Merrill of the response to Hurricane Igor. “When RCMP members do things like this and get going, that’s when the Mountie comes out in us. We go full tilt helping people. That’s why they call us Mounties.”
RCMP Aux. Cst. Glen Evely was killed instantly when a cocaine-infused man struck the patrol car he was riding in – but his name is not on the Canadian Police and Peace Officer Memorial. “Adding the names of auxiliary officers who die on duty is not a tall order to ask,” RCMP C/Supt Steve McVarnock says. “It’s simply about doing the principled thing – honouring all officers who have paid the ultimate price.
The RCMP is about halfway through a move to new national headquarters, once the international headquarters of high tech firm JDS Uniphase, is a big step up from the old building, built in the 1950s as a seminary, said Asst/Comm Bernard Corrigan. It’s “absolutely beautiful and has all of the bells and whistles… a great spot for people to get out of the work environment and go to relax.”
“It amazes me how “good theoretical concepts” and programs are consistently diluted” when put into operation, writes Stephen G. Serrao. “The two most misunderstood words in law enforcement are “strategic” and “tactical.” Police executives talk about strategy and then spend their days and most of their time focusing on tactical activity and decisions. Usually the “strategy” goes out the window.
There will be fewer car chases and a safer community, promised Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill at the unveiling of the force’s new helicopter. Police will arrive on scene much faster and the eye in the sky will allow them to see “pretty much everywhere.”
Technology can be a double-edged sword for police, writes Durham Regional Police IT manager Christine Robson. Officers don’t need to answer e-mails while driving or in meetings – or when they’re on personal time. “They need to unwind and become technologically unplugged on their days off.”
A motorboat could help suppress opium smuggling and allow police to investigate theft and other crime along the Vancouver waterfront, the city’s chief constable noted in his 1910 annual report. City council agreed and a new boat soon went into service, manned by a skipper and a mechanic. Great success in reducing smuggling was reported in the next year’s report.
The Vancouver Olympics were a great success, thanks in no small part to Vancouver Police. “The true measure of success of years of planning, training and trying to implement a psychological change within a large organization such as the VPD culminated with international applause on the last day,” wrote Sgt. Lee Patterson.
“Real cops do hot yoga… it will increase your flexibility, strength and elbow sweat, teach you to breathe deeply through stressful situations and provide other benefits,” writes Calgary Police Sgt. Brenda Brooks. It can “arrest symptoms of chronic pain, decrease stress and help us become leaner, firmer and stronger.”
The barcode is king in the retail market, writes Tom Rataj, and the next generation QR version is poised to take over. The 2D code packs a lot of information and will become increasingly common, Rataj notes, possibly even as a convenient self serve option for linking citizens with police service resources.
The annual budget was a paltry $5,000 a year – including the chief’s salary and vehicle — when Ken Sider took over as chief of the Chinguacousy Township police. Headquarters was a tiny basement room in a township office and getting money from council was like pulling teeth, Sider recalls. Chinguacousy, located in Peel County west of Toronto, was absorbed into the newly created Peel Region in 1973. Sider had the dubious distinction of being the force’s first – and last – chief.
Former Hamilton Tiger Cat defensive end Sgt. John Harris took on some of the toughest police jobs, including investigating biker gangs. He “is without equal as a supervisor,” wrote HPS Chief Glenn De Caire. The latest accomplishment for the “quintessential ‘cops’ cop'” — recipient of the inaugural Blue Line’s Police Leadership Award.
Officers often complain of not enough training time, writes use of force instructor Pete Bishop, but not all training needs to be structured or scheduled. He suggests daily dry firing, practicing use of force and defensive tactics at home and at the gym and practicing immediate rapid deployment (IRD) in empty offices.
“Police agencies can no longer afford to allow employment conditions to account for corporate retention strategies,” writes Terry Graden. “Engaging and motivating both Gen X and Millennial officers requires real opportunities for internal movement. Employees like to work for an organization whose supervisors partner with them to build these opportunities.”
Tom Wetzel notes that leaders should realize they don’t have all the answers. By asking questions and bouncing ideas off of officers who report to you, you make better decisions, improve ‘buy-in’ and draw on many years of collective police experience.
“Preventing crime, 140 characters at a time.” A social media plan is a necessity in this day and age, argues Toronto Police Service Cst. Scott Mills. “The problem is when you tell the police chief he needs to include Twitter in his event management strategy, you get a funny look.” Mills is working hard to persuade officers to “celebrate their daily life in social media.”
A new Canadian chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) standard took “nearly a decade of work that brought the right people together to cut through the complexities associated with identifying personal protective equipment (PPE) best practices… (offering managers) scientifically-validated information to ensure that their personnel wear the appropriate protective equipment.”
Policing needs to become “more adaptable, agile and mobile” to deal with perhaps its toughest challenge ever – flash mob crime, violence and riotous behaviour, writes Joel Johnston. All officers should have wearable, light, mobile but capable protective equipment that dissipates impact, resists heat and fire and can be quickly put on, preferably under uniforms.
Caber, the first trauma K9 dog in a Canadian victim services setting, supports victims and families after traumatic incidents. “The impact of Caber’s empathy for Delta’s victims of crime and trauma has proven to be exceptional,” said Kim Gramlich of Delta Police. “Dogs aren’t judgmental… Caber brings out the best in all of us.”
Canadian police officers have made a huge difference in Afghanistan by sharing their experience and values, says Toronto Police Service Chief Bill Blair. They “have gained incredible experience and confidence. They come back better than when we sent them, more capable of making a strong contribution here,” says Blair.
Despite its small size, bargain hunting Smith Falls Police Department Chief Larry Hardy equips officers with the latest technological tools — voice recognition software for in-car laptops (2010) and cruiser cameras (2009). “Not only does the chief embrace technology,” notes one officer, “but he also has an uncanny way of finding bargains and grant money. It’s incredible what he can put together.”
One pull of the trigger and a shotgun “can put the energy equivalent to half a magazine of 5.56mm rounds into a threat,” yet some police agencies are looking at taking it away from officers, writes Dave Brown. One reason is poor training. The three most common mistakes — making shotgun instruction overcomplicated, training with duty loads and equipping shotguns with folding stocks, notes Brown.
Robert Lunney’s elements for success: “Unequivocal support for community policing; Advancing information-led policing while blending in Compstat accountability; Assuring that the appropriate resources are assembled; Ensuring that organizational structures and systems contribute to achieving fusion, and communicating this blending of crime strategies and policing styles internally with clarity and commitment.”
The last Crown Victoria, a civilian model destined for Saudi Arabia, rolled off the assembly line at 12:30 PM on Sept. 15 2011, concluding assembly operations at the St. Thomas, Ontario plant. First produced in 1992, the Crown Vic held a near monopoly on the police market after Chevrolet Caprice production ended in 1996.
Stephen Vandenbos is the first Ontario officer to author a general warrant using facial recognition technology. The warrant instructed the Ontario transportation ministry to compare a suspect photo with its drivers license database using photo comparison technology. “To my amazement, it worked… my suspect was identified.”
Vancouver police train Downtown East Side youth in judo – and also instill respect, self confidence and honour – through the Odd Squad Productions Society (OSP), writes Elvin Klassen. Kids “encourage and support each other through a process in which support for each other is measured and not physical ability,” says VPD Supt. Rob Rothwell.
The London Police Auxiliary (LPL) celebrates its 50th anniversary. Its history actually dates back to 1941 when 50 members of the League of Frontiersmen, a paramilitary organization, began the London Police Reserve. The league disbanded in 1961 after a dispute. The issue was resolved later that year and the LPL began.
“Stop the madness,” urges Joel Johnston. “We need to formally recognize the existence of Excited Delirium Syndrome and establish clear protocols for dealing with it. We need to engage in a multi-disciplinary, comprehensive training effort to ensure that a competent, collaborative response to these rare situations is achievable.”
Clif Chapman retired from the Edmonton Police Service in 1989 – but not for long. After just one year off, he returned as part of a pilot project where retired members answer 911 calls. The test was a success and Edmonton now has more than 50 retired officers filling this role.
“The Crown Approval process has no legislative validity, adds costs and no benefits to the criminal justice system,” argues Doug Stead. When police can’t decide to lay charges, “it is inevitable they will shy away from being responsible for decisions during the investigation and allow the Crown to occupy that field.”
encourages officers to feel inadequate without a lawyer to tell them what to do…. The federal law is clear. Cops lay the charges.”
Halifax Regional Police Supt. Don Spicer knew he might be a target for jokes when he partnered with a local coffee shop to spread crime prevention messages. “We want people to get their coffee and look at the sleeve and say, ‘I wonder what my message is today?’” Spicer says.
Though largely forgotten today, the British Columbia Provincial Police met many challenges over its 90 year history, writes Andrew Maksymchuk. In 1948 it was the first force to acquire an aircraft for police purposes and even managed to unofficially get two submarines for its marine division. It was absorbed into the RCMP in 1950.
The Ontario Police College campus began life as a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot training station. The first recruit class moved into the old, hastily-built barrack huts in January 1963. It’s the OPC’s 50th anniversary this year. Recruits still leave with their ‘BA’ – not a Bachelor of Arts but the right to say they have “Been to Aylmer.”
Effective media relations boils down to common sense, says Janice Coffin of Halton Regional Police. “You are the public face and voice of your organization and its image and reputation is influenced by what you do and say, especially in a crisis. Act accordingly. Professionalism, courtesy and respect are the keys to success.”
Canadian police chiefs face a dilemma – downsize and reduce services or resist and tempt governments to arbitrarily reduce budgets and take control of pay and benefits, warns Robert Lunney. Find solutions that protect core services while shielding policing from outside influences, he advises. “Partnering with a reliable not-for-profit may provide a cost saving option to service reductions.”
A multi-disciplinary team of police and other professionals work together at Edmonton’s Zebra Child Protection Centre, supporting physically or sexually abused children. Child friendly interview rooms help them relax and volunteers accompany kids and families through the court process, showing them what to expect.
The travelling public is not an enemy but an ally, says Matt Sheehy, who urges Canada to adopt smart systems and technologies to identify as many “can fly” people as possible and get them out of the queue. “We need to move to a TRUST and THREAT based doctrine.”
The Mental Health Commission of Canada rolls out its first ever national mental health strategy, aimed at improving the mental health and well-being of all Canadians. Canada was the only G8 country without such a strategy, says commission CEO Louise Bradley. “We now have a blueprint, a very good one.”
An unconscious person is slumped over a steering wheel. “Opening the door, you notice a bucket on the floor filled with what looks like powdered chemicals, smell rotten eggs – and draw your last breath.” RCMP Sgt. Larry Burden’s warns about the alarming increase in H2S suicides and the urgent need to amend investigative and training policies.
“Each month I will present information to help you build, maintain or rebuild your psychological armour to have a bulletproof mind,” Stephanie Conn promises in her first
“If you ever need a shotgun to stop a deadly threat, all the platitudes that sound so good as forum signature lines go out the window,” writes Dave Brown. “When the rounds start flying, the world is no longer made up of sheep, sheepdogs and wolves; it is made up of people who do the best job they can under very trying circumstances.”
Training in and using a simple seven hand signal system allows officers to work together in situations where speaking may compromise their objectives, writes Tom Wetzel. “This system can provide valuable uniformity in hand signals for not only your agency’s officers but those from neighbouring services.”
The most common argument for nitrogen-filled tires, that “nitrogen molecules are larger and nitrogen-filled tires are less prone to leakage,” makes no sense, writes Dave Brown. “In fact, nitrogen molecules are only 3 per cent larger than oxygen molecules.” Air is 78 per cent nitrogen and the most pure concentration outside a lab is about 95 to 98 per cent nitrogen, “so essentially they’re selling plain old air.”
Policing is NOT a customer service profession, argues Richard Neil. “The best known saying in the customer service industry is “the customer is always right”… As the guardians of justice, we daily enforce the law on drunk drivers, wife beaters, burglars, child molesters and murderers. Do we want to earn their repeat business? Are they always right? Heck, are they ever right?”
We’re being taught to put the human element back into reports, writes RCMP Cst. Deepak Prasad. “With video evidence supporting our written reports and notes, we can achieve that goal. The old days of being able to “justify anything” are over. It’s time we showed the public what we face every day.”
The Hamilton Police Service ditched all but ten of its 10 codes in favour of plain language over the radio. Frustrated with the confusion that comes from lack of standardization with neighbouring agencies, it took its queue from south of the border agencies which require plain language for all multi-agency incidents.
“Succession planning – developing people rather than merely naming them as replacements – is better than replacement planning,” writes RCMP Cst. Scott Messier. If your absence sparks instant panic, “it is time to develop people for your role. Be willing to appropriately delegate, provide training and some leeway.”
“A sense of entitlement about what your agency should provide may get you killed,” warns Michael Soden. “Develop the mindset of what you will do” in an active shooting situation. “You don’t want your first thought to be “damn, I should have trained for this”… superior training and mindset will defeat superior firepower.”
Over 30 terabytes of data was processed in a massive operation to identify suspects after the Vancouver riot, writes Elvin Klassen. Fifty forensic analysts from multiple agencies spent more than 4,000 hours worked around the clock to tag some 15,000 criminal acts and suspected rioters. The IACP recognized the huge effort with awards for excellence in forensic science and criminal investigation.
“From the moment of accepting the oath of office,” writes Robert Lunney, “every act performed, every decision made, every personal conclusion filed away composes the sum of individual worthiness, constitutes the reputation as a person and a police officer, and ultimately is enfolded in personal character.”
Firearms training is evolving from static, on-the-whistle, limited movement and unrealistic distances, threat cues and targets to a more relevant, realistic approach, writes Joel Johnston, better preparing officers for real-world armed encounters and greatly enhancing performance and survivability.
Empathetic police work values justice and doesn’t make excuses for criminal behaviour,” writes Tom Wetzel, “but doesn’t forget that we’re all human and deserve clemency when appropriate.” Developing trust with those you serve and you’re “more likely to earn the community’s support because it is aware of the risks they take for them.”
Faced with an almost 17 per cent increase in crime from the previous year, then Peterborough Police Force Insp. Gordon Dawson borrowed designed one of the first successful Canadian community policing programs.
Begun in 1978, it reduced calls for service for the next decade — and remains a cornerstone to this day.
“It is up to each and every Canadian police agency to leverage the scientific and human resource advantages under their noses to elevate policing to the profession of excellence that it can be,” writes Joel Johnston – “if not in the areas of public safety and officer safety, then where?”
Police helicopters are “not about headlines and statistics; they are about a lack of headlines,” writes Dave Brown. “After all, when was the last time you opened up a newspaper and read, “Nobody was hurt last night.”
After 44 years in policing, Victoria Police Department Chief Jamie Graham is retiring (for the third time) in December. ““Policing has been very good to me,” Graham says. “I owe the organizations (RCMP, the VPD and the VicPD) so much for giving me the opportunities to be a part of an amazing team.”
Giving excellent evidence is an important part of every police officer’s job, writes Doug LePard & Michaela Donnelly. Being an excellent witness “begins with the quality of your investigations and documentation, requires excellent preparation and then is completed by being a fair, objective, respectful and knowledgeable witness, even under stressful circumstances.”
Officers Aaron White polled could all state the “21 foot rule” – but when tested visually, their estimates of that distance ranged from 11 to 17 feet. Not one could draw and shoot the assailant before he could get the knife to them,” White wrote. “They had never actually seen what the “reactionary gap” was and so had no visual reference.”
A police officer’s uniform conveys the power an authority of the person wearing it, writes Richard R. Johnson. Research proves it has a powerful psychological impact. “Selecting a uniform style, following regulations on properly wearing the uniform, maintaining uniforms, and designing policies to address when officers may wear plainclothes, should command serious attention from department managers.”
Threats are not just part of a police officer’s job, writes Det. Colin Leathem of the Edmonton Police Service Threat Assessment Unit. ““Your job is to patrol, protect and to serve but you also have a responsibility to yourself and to your family to be safe.”